If you live in St. Louis, MO, you missed church today. Because everyone freaks out about snow in this town. So here's the lowdown on today's sermon in our "Follow the Way" series. Get the message here. Mail your offering in tomorrow :)
I'm pretty sure that you have mistreated prayer at some point. You've treated prayer as:
Magic - Sometimes we treat prayer like magic. God is some sort of magician or wizard. And if we just recite the right incantation, he’ll magically grant our wishes. This kind of prayer is incredibly selfish. It treats God like a force to be manipulated for our own desires.
Mechanics – Sometimes we treat prayer mechanically. God is some sort of machine. If we just push the right buttons, levers, and gears, we will get the outcome we desire. This kind of prayer treats God like an object, not a living Being.
Not at All – Or we just don't pray at all, or occasionally at best.
In contrast to magic or mechanics or not at all, Jesus gave an alternative way to pray. The disciples asked, “Lord teach us to pray.” Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2) The most important word of the prayer that Jesus gives us is the first one. “Father.”
In the OT, someone’s name was more than a label. The name was related the essence of a person. It revealed who they were and how you were to relate to them. It is is of fundamental importance that Jesus begins the prayer with "Father."
Jesus teaches prayer not as a “how to” but a Who.
I don’t believe in the power of prayer, but in the power of the One we pray to. Jesus directs us beyond words, petitions, and formulas. Prayer is more than what we pray. It’s who we pray to. And to show us how to pray, Jesus points to God as Father.
Martin Luther comments on this approach to prayer: “Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently, even as beloved children approach their dear father.”
Our fourth (and final) child will approach me with arms up in the air. He doesn’t have a full vocabulary, so he just raises his hands. If I don’t pick him up, then he’ll start pulling on my pants leg. Imagine coming to God in this way. "As children approach their dear father." Sometimes you don't even have the words to speak. You just reach up and "pull."
Jesus invites us to plead, pull, and pester.
Jesus told a story about getting unexpected company late at night (Luke 11:5-13). Imagine that Aunt Joan was on her way to from Pennsylvania to California and your house seemed like a good stopping point. You’re unprepared and you need some food, so you go across the street to your friend’s house.
You knock on the door. Then Jesus offers this potential response: “And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ (Luke 11:7) Do you think your friend would say this? “Don’t bother me. I’m tucked in. I’ve got my Pj’s on. The floor is cold. I’d have to find my slippers.” Jesus' implied answer is "NO WAY!"
Jesus says, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” (Luke 11:8). Ok, even if he won’t help you because you’re friends, he would at least help you because you’re pestering him. “Shameless audacity” – you’ve pounded on the door to the point of annoying him.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9) Through an extreme example, Jesus teaches us how to pray. And it’s less a “how to” and more of a “who.” You can approach this Father with pleading, pulling, even pestering.
This week, try praying like this:
“Father, you said I could call you. You said I could ask, seek, and knock. So here I am. Pleading, pulling, and pestering.”
Jesus prayed like this. He called on his Father in a garden late at night. Everyone else fell asleep. He was alone. He pleaded, pulled, and pestered his Father. “Take this cup away if it is your will.” He was so earnest in his prayer, pulling so hard on his Father’s leg, that he was sweating blood. And he said, “Father, your will be done.”
But the Father’s will got him killed. From the Garden, we see Jesus suspended, half naked, bleeding. “I thought God answered prayer. Why didn’t God answer?!! Why did he let this happen?!!!”
But then on the third day, there was no one on the cross anymore. They still haven’t found his body to this day. All the pleading, pulling, and pestering. The Father answered Jesus' prayer for you.
This is the kind Father we pray to. The Father who sacrifices for you. The Father who gives you good things even when you’re not sure what he’s up to. The Father who answers prayer in surprising ways. The Father who knows you, loves you, and answers your prayers in astounding ways.
Read: Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8